Our life is like a day. When we are born, Sun peeks out over the horizon. Slowly and surely the dawn turns from pink to a sea of yellow. The morning cool gives way to the noon heat and the bright lights overhead. And slowly the Sun moves behind us and the shadows start to lengthen, accompanying us wherever we go. Slowly, surely as the light dims, and soon the day comes to a close.
We go from being tykes to teens into our twenties and then thirties. Nothing really changes – bright sunshine never lets’ us sit still, propelling us forward, for the day is long. But then suddenly everything changes. I turn 45 today and I would be lying if I told you that it wasn’t weighing on me.
Whether it was my 21st, 30th or 40th – I always thought of them as an occasion to throw a big party, hang out with friends and generally do stupid things like shop for shit I didn’t really need. Today however is very different. It is like that late afternoon shadow, that marches ahead of you, like a cataract of memories. There is something inherently profound and powerful about knowing that you have more years behind you than you have in front of you.
Many of us do crazy things at this realization. It is called a midlife crisis. However, I have not bought a Porsche or gotten involved with too young a girlfriend. I am perfectly comfortable with the gray whiskers and slowly receding hairline. I have not dyed them black or gotten Lasik surgery. I do admit to wearing skinner jeans but that’s about all.
Then what is it? I don’t quite know. Is it the fact that soon Derek Jeter will not play for the Yankees or that Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the last two Indian cricket players I cared for will be retiring from the game. Or that Pet Shop Boys and Human League and Duran Duran are played as part of classic rock. Maybe, maybe not!
It is certainly not my mortality – been there, done that. Then what is it? I looked on the web, and a few weeks ago I read this piece in The Guardian by Miranda Sawyer about quiet desperation of midlife crisis. I keep re-reading it, because it is just so powerful but don’t feel any of those things she is talking about. It really is hard to describe, what and how I feel.
I don’t feel an urgency to be settled in one place. Or to own more things. There are no regrets on decisions taken – though I wish I could have been less selfish at times. It just might be an unusual feeling of finally getting used to the idea of who you are and it is unlikely that you are going to change. It is a scary admission about yourself! To yourself!
A friend of mine, who turned 45 as well, recently told me that the best way to deal with all this sense of pensiveness or foreboding is to return to the time when you were happiest in your life. It is simple but powerful advice.
When you are young, you don’t have collective crud of memories and pre-conceived notions. You have the comfort of knowing that you can learn. I am going back to that place. I don’t have precise time and date, but there was a time when all I wanted to do was read, write and learn. And be part of an adventure — whether it was a new job, new city or new friends.
I didn’t need much then. A notebook, a pen, a keyboard and mostly a good editor! I will re-start with that.
It seems to me that what happens after we die is not really the problem. The challenge for us is how we live between now and then, whether we have the courage to stop denying it and use our anxieties to live more authentic, meaning-filled and purposeful lives. – Irvin Yalom